The day I drove the Mazda Ultra for the first time, I excitedly called up 8 of my friends. To my surprise, only 3 acknowledged the existence of this car. Mazda’s lineup of sedans for most of them seemed to stop with the Mazda 6, and this indeed seems to be a problem Mazda has been facing in this market. Their most eligible contender for the pride of place in the mid-size/executive sedan segment – a segment dominated by the Toyota Camry and the Honda Accord seemed to be stuck in a blind-spot despite doing pretty well for itself in the showrooms. And that makes the Mazda 6 Ultra the hidden gem in the Mazda line-up. In whose favour many purchase decisions would have turned… if only people knew!
An experience beyond Mazda 6
The Ultra is a car that makes up for every shortcoming of the Mazda 6 in the family car segment. With more space, more power and more material comfort, the Ultra is designed for those who appreciate the exuberant designs that get Mazda to stand out in the crowded and fellow-Japanese dominated world of practical and cautious car purchase. For those who look beyond the somewhat compact design of a Mazda 6 and don’t mind shelling out a few thousands more for the extra frills, Mazda 6 Ultra offers sufficient solace.
It has everything that one misses in a Mazda 6 – from leather seats and extra legroom to power-on-call and a fullness of design that doesn’t make you feel small alongside a Camry or an Accord that share the same parking lot. Despite the fact that it looks a lot like the Mazda 6 until you take a second look. Thankfully the Ultra demands a second look. The flared front wheels, the longer curvilinear lights and the extended rear mark a different car altogether, emphasized by the lip spoiler and gilded Ultra badge next to the Mazda 6 nameplate.
The slightly elongated design ensures more legroom for rear seat passengers, though the low-lying arches make you feel that there is a shortage of headroom –which is just a feeling. My 6-feet tall brother fit into it comfortably, extending his pampered corporate limbs pretty comfortably. For the families on tour, the boot space will prove enough for an extra bag or two – it’s quite deep actually – yet be wary of tall stuff as there is an inexplicable height constraint within the boot. For families with eager children, the amply wide sunroof affords just a peep for the rear seat passengers, but then that’s an inevitable flipside to surprise leg space.
Just enough of everything
The Mazda 6 Ultra bundles an offering that truly makes it worthy of the flagship position in the Mazda lineup. The central console, for instance, is something that will instantly charm those who have crossed over the realm of ostentatious frills. Purely functional and minimalist, the convenient settings present themselves as an elegant black button panel framed by a silver lining (brushed aluminium to be precise) that differentiates the Ultra luxury from the Mazda 6. What doesn’t compliment the setting though, is the shell finish where you mostly find wooden trims in other cars of the same stature. The 10 speaker Bose system that equip the cabin of a Mazda 6 Ultra add to the refined pleasure of driving an executive sedan.
Despite the selective abeyance from its more popular Mazda 6 appearance, it is only when you drive an Ultra that you really admire the difference this car brings to your feeling of having “arrived”. The Ultra comes in two engine variants – the 2.5 L and 3.7 L V6. Test drives are available only for the former and so my imagination had to place a CX9 engine in the sedan version to rake up how powerful that transposition would be. Yet, I should be fair to the drive (which I quite enjoy as a family man) that the 2.5 does justice to the heavier body in comparison with the light-footed Mazda 6. The difference between the engines is quite stark though – the 3.7 generates almost 100 bhp more than the 2.5 L version.
Compared with its direct competitors, Mazda 6 Ultra scores quite high, right from the engine efficiency. Both the Camry and the Accord gives you a tame 2.4 VVT while an Altima gives 2.5 L and a 3.5 version that is more expensive but powerful, especially with the smoother CVT transmission. Fuel efficiency is impressive – in the realms of 10.5 km/litre. The tyres keep up, with a 17” version for the 2.5 and 18” monsters for the 3.7 throttle.
The Mazda 6 has it all. Great design that sets the Mazda standards. A reasonably powerful and fuel-efficient engine that ensures a satisfying drive, and frills that translate to everyday convenience. In that context, the absence of parking sensors or rear view cameras was quite pronounced. Thankfully, it doesn’t cost much to add those to your range of conveniences.
The inspiration to think big perhaps comes from its American origins of the model for the Japanese brand. Yet, overall, the Mazda 6 Ultra 2.5 comes across as a tame drive. Not a lot to write home about. Then again, in a segment ruled by mediocre drives and value priority, the Ultra scores many brownie points. Mazda’s best kept secret does have a way of satisfying the family man.
Upside: Impressive design. Comfortable interiors. Powerful enough for city drives and long-hauls. 10-speaker Bose Music System.
Flipside: Mind your head when you get into the rear seat. If you expect a lot of power for a royal lift-off, the 2.5 L version might not keep up. (The 3.7 L does.) Absence of parking assistance.
Picture/Drive Courtesy: Galadari Motors